It's SEO week here at eZ, so we chose an SEO topic some of you may not be aware of: Responsive design's benefits on SEO and a website's SERP rankings.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term "responsive design," it is the reformatting of images and copy on a website, making it easily accessible and viewable on different devices - regardless of screen size. This gives you the best user experience possible whether you are using a laptop, a new smart phone or tablet.
Mobile-friendly websites have really taken off in the past four years and will only continue to do so. In fact, last year was deemed by some to be "The Year of Responsive Design," and that prediction may have been right. Today, more than 36 percent of websites are designed to be used for mobile devices, with 15 percent being "fully responsive," according to Restive Labs. Although that may not sound like a high percentage, with the user growth of smartphone and tablets, responsive design will only increase in the coming years.
Why such a huge push to responsive you ask? Well there are quite a few reasons, one of them being SEO.
Google Favors Responsive Design
That's right Google favors websites that use responsive design - and who are we to argue with Google?
With the release of the Hummingbird algorithm last year, Google has designed a new mobile ranking system favoring mobile-friendly websites, making it almost necessary to invest in responsive design.
Google has favoritism towards responsive design for a few reasons. One is its ability to use a single URL for a website, making it easier to link and share content with other sites. A single URL also benefits a website's speed since no site redirection is needed. This favors mobile users who may not have the best connection.
Their last reason is responsive design makes it easier for Google to crawl and index sites as opposed to crawling mobile-optimized websites, which use individual URLs for their desktop, tablet and mobile phone versions. This causes URL redirection.
Which brings us to our next reason why responsive benefits SEO.
Note: A third approach that can also be used is adaptive content delivery, which is based on dynamic device detection. This brings similar results using the same URL, just like responsive websites. The downside is implementation is quite complex and comes with the risk to serve different content, which is not always good, hence not always recommended.
Responsive Avoids Duplicate Content
As mentioned before, unlike mobile-optimized websites which use a separate URL for desktop and mobile versions, responsive websites have the advantage of avoiding duplicate content. This will prevent Google spiders from being confused and penalizing you for duplicate content.
Visitors Want an Easy to Use Mobile Experience
As mobile traffic is set to eclipse PC traffic this year, consumers are expecting a better mobile experience from the websites they visit. According to Google data, 61 percent of visitors will return to Google search if a website is not mobile friendly. On top of that, 71 percent of mobile users will leave after waiting five seconds for a page to load.
If traffic going to your competitors doesn't encourage you enough to consider a responsive website, these statistics could also hurt your SERP rankings. For every visitor who immediately leaves a website, the bounce rate for that site will increase. It has been observed that rankings on mobile search are correlated to your bounce rate. In other words, if your site does not work well on mobile, you may be penalized and your ranking might drop on mobile searches. Note: This topic is still up for debate if and how Google knows your bounce rate.
Responsive design solves both issues by enabling both a fast and easy to use, user experience that visitors will enjoy.
Last year may have been the year for responsive design, but 2014 is the year you need to make mobile a priority. Responsive is just one of a few options (Update: Read Creating Your Mobile Experience) but currently the most popular and best fit in most cases.
As for the 64% of websites who are not mobile ready, you soon may see your SERP rankings decrease. We are in the time of mobile devices, so get on board and adapt!